YOU could forgive Danny Briggs for feeling a little envious when Jos Buttler makes his Test debut at The Ageas Bowl.
Having played with and against each other from the age of 11, Briggs and Buttler have played ten limited- overs internationals together in the last two-and-a-half years.
Now, six months after Briggs was jettisoned from England’s T20 team, wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler is preparing to step up to the biggest stage against India on Sunday – while his Lancashire teammates take on Hampshire at Old Trafford in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Buttler has his chance following Matt Prior’s decision to stand down for the rest of the season.
“We’re good mates and it’s great news for Jos,” said Briggs. “I roomed with Jos at West Of England festivals, we’ve always got on well. Hopefully he has a good debut, and gets a run in the side.
“Keeping is natural to him and now he needs to get in that side, stay there and make that place his own for a long time.”
Like Briggs, Buttler made his first-class debut five years ago and soon caught the eye with his clean hitting and innovative strokeplay. The 23-year-olds first played against each other at under-11 level for Somerset against Hampshire and then together for West of England Under-13s and at every England age-group level.
“By the age of 12 we all knew who Jos was,” said Briggs. “You always knew he would be the first to get a contract, with Somerset, and he always looked a future England player. Even at a young age he had different shots that others couldn’t hit.
“He was the same size as most of us but could hit it out of the ground even then.
“I always remember him trying to come down the wicket and whack it at a young age, he was always coming at you.
"Nothing’s really changed but he’s added a few more shots to complement his big hitting.
“He’s very relaxed and he shows that calmness on the field.
“A lot of it is natural talent but consistently hitting the ball all around the ground is something he’s worked on – although there wasn’t enough pace in under-13 cricket to use his ‘ramp’ shots! – and it comes quite naturally to him now.
"He trained hard all the way through and its paid dividends.”
Buttler has impressed at The Ageas Bowl before.
Against Hampshire in May 2010, he scored his maiden first-class century in only his fourth match (144 in the LV County Championship).
Later that season, he captured the attention of a wider audience with a sensational 21-ball 50 to fire Somerset to a dramatic T20 semi-final win against Nottinghamshire. Briggs has enjoyed dismissing Buttler twice on his two most recent visits to The Ageas Bowl to play Hampshire – but only after he had made match-winning fifties.
“I remember him getting a top edge trying to reverse sweep me and getting caught,” smiled Briggs.
“He’ll have good memories of playing here and hopefully that stands him in good stead.”
Briggs has responded to his England omission with impressive form for Hampshire, which he has combined with his new role of dad to six-week-old Stanley.
With 21 wickets at 17 apiece, he is the joint leading T20 wicket-taker in the country and he also has 23 Championship wickets at 26.3.
“It was a difficult winter but I always knew I had to come back here and perform,” said Briggs, whose long-term aim is to join Buttler in the Test side. “I’ve still got a bit of work to do and a lot of overs to bowl but if we’re winning games and I’m contributing I’ll give myself the best chance.”